Seafarer’s Wife : The Woman Behind A Successful Life At Sea

On an eventful day when a Mariner’s wife stands at the horizon and sees the lights of a ship waning away as waves budge it further into deeper seas, her heart sinks into depths greater than the ocean itself and resurfaces astoundingly. These women deserve salutation and admiration from family as well as society, their role more often understood than told. The life of a seafarer is not a cakewalk, neither for him nor for his wife.

Be it the long-awaited haul by the family, especially the wife Mrs Aditi James of Capt. Sunil James who fought with all her might to get her husband rescued back from the prison in Togo despite suffering an irrecoverable loss of their only child Vivaan, or the deserted families of Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan involved in Heibei Spirit Oil Spill incident, whose detention generated controversy and protests from all parts of the world and shipping fraternity, the wives of these sailors have endured great sufferings and fought several difficulties, most of the times single-handedly. As seen in several unfortunate maritime events around the world, seafarers and their families have an equal share in the grief and anguish they have been subjected to, time and again due to unfavourable laws of coastal states and the criminalisation of seafarers. The journey of pain in such events is enduring and takes a toll on one’s life, especially on the wives of mariners.

Sailor wife
Representation image

A mariner’s wife ardently takes up various jobs as part of her duty, which often requires coping with emotional ups and downs while their husbands are away, socialising with vexing relatives, handling household jobs, and if the situation requires, taking up matters with ministries, governments and embassies to bring their spouses back home. In unfortunate events wherein seafarers have been stuck in foreign ports or went through an unfortunate accident, the spouses and families of these seafarers have stood by them, showing great courage, patience, and grit in rescuing their loved ones.

A seafarer’s wife has to go through a variety of issues both when on land and at sea, the main among them being:

Parenting: One of the biggest and arduous challenges a seafarer’s wife has to undertake is parenting and looking after the well being of children when their father is away at sea. She assumes sole powers and responsibility regarding the education and grooming of children at each and every stage, right from exhaustive infant care to handling the needs of emotionally demanding teenagers. Mapping their progress at every level and passing through testing times when a child needs medical, moral and emotional support, a seafarer’s wife single-handedly manages a variety of issues, showing great determination and courage.

Loneliness: Though the wives of seafarers find ample opportunities to keep themselves busy, solitude always prevails and often makes them feel feeble (mostly emotionally) in presence of their social counterparts. Perpetually they are bold enough to overcome and continue supporting their spouses, but dealing with badly timed questions from relatives and friends regarding married life and their concern about the upbringing of children, family issues, managing household jobs etc. sometimes do take a toll on their mental and physical health. However, the ease with which a mariner’s wife deals with these stumbling blocks is commendable.

Household Errands: The absence of a husband puts a mariners wife on the forefront to fulfil countless household tasks such as paying bills, settling repairs, decorating interiors, managing finances and investments on behalf of mariner husbands, not to forget the formal socialising as well. In the case of joint families (still prevalent in several parts of the world) she is also required to look after the parents of both her’s and her husband’s. More often than not, this also includes attending and supporting their medical care and daily needs. With a due span of time, a mariner’s wife inculcates enough resolve and mettle to cope up with and fulfil the needs hovering around herself.

While Onboard: Even while sailing onboard ships, accompanying their husbands, a mariner’s wife is required to exercise restraint and discipline. Apart from infrequent shore leaves and parties on board, she has to regularly attend drills, cope up with frozen foods, comply with meal timings, and follow safety instructions at various work areas. Moreover, onboard they have limited access and areas to keep themselves engaged, which can take a toll on them if the vessel is on long voyages.

Being a mariner’s wife needs immense courage and valour, which makes her stand out from other women, who always have the opportunity to enjoy the company of their husband but often do not value it.

Though the need for healthy family life has been widely accepted and understood by shipping companies that often encourage interaction and participation in social events for mariners and their families, there is a lot to be done in order to provide an ideal life for a seafarer and his wife.

Needless to say, the importance of seafarer’s wife in providing a healthy family life to mariners at sea, needs to be acknowledged by the rest of the world, which relies heavily and widely on trade and shipping.

You may also like to read – 8 Ways Seafarers can make their Loved Ones Feel Special this Valentine’s Day

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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Image Credits: © Irina Brinza –


About Author

Abhishek Bhanawat is a chief officer who has worked on various types of tankers. He specializes in Crude Oil and Product Tankers. He is extremely passionate about his work and loves to sail. An avid reader since childhood days, he likes to write about his experiences in free time. He loves to share his views and opinions regarding his maritime profession. He also likes to teach and always supports his juniors who are at the sea through mails and over phone.

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  1. My wife deserves all the accolades possible , she has had to put up with my absence when I am away at sea , then her life changes again when I am home , not to mention bringing up a family all by herself. So yes I feel she is not only the backbone of our marriage but an essential part of my industry.

  2. Wow! So true and penned very well. I am a proud sailor’s wife and completely relate to each and every word. As they say ‘Only the best men go to sea and only the strongest of women marry such men’. A salute to all the sailors who leave their families back home and manage their work and themselves which such composure. Hats off to all the wives of such sailors who stand as rocks behind them, come what may

  3. Am greatful to find pple who understand what life without our husbands almost all d time can be like. Its not easy at all, but God continuously strenghtens me. Thnk u for dis beautiful piece of writing. It means a lot, n very encouraging too.

  4. Very beautifully written lines n I can also relate to each n every word written here….when it comes to merchant navy, people only think of money but no one understands the sacrifice which is given by d seafarer n his wife n kids…..only we can understand the pain of separation which we have to bear…..want all my friends n relatives to read this passage who think that our life is very easy…..we are strong wives of our strong sailors n will always support our heroes come what may…..hats off to all d brave sailors n their better halves…..

  5. With the ever more role reversal these days, we shouldn’t be forgetting the men that are left at home with us women being away at sea.

  6. I really to read comments and posts..even though im not yet a sailors wife but the type of our relationship now is some one like that of sailors wife.its really a tough and strong woman will marry a merchant navy.coz its not easy to live life away from our husband/boyfriend..we fight the everyday pain and loneliness we encounter alone..with out the presence of our husband/husband to be.GoDbless us all.

  7. Dear Abhishek,

    This was an awesome article. I quite enjoyed reading it. You have stated the complete truth! I can so relate to your article as I myself am a Merchant navy Captain’s wife. Every word you have written is so true!!! Thanks for appreciating the life of the shippie’s wife in your article.

    A naval officer’s wife is chiseled over a period of time due to circumstances and she becomes a toughie! A woman of substance!

    Cheers to the brave men who choose careers at sea and the women in their lives who match them in every possible way!


  8. Thank you very much for your admiration and continued support. I believe the evident sacrifice and hardships a seafarer’ s wife goes through and yet keeps her family stable is worth to be penned down.

  9. As the wife of a seafarer, I can fully relate to everything in your article. It’s refreshing that you acknowledge how tough it is for us as well as our husbands. A lot of people don’t realise that.

  10. the airport sees the sadness that most of us,wives feel during the departure and witnesses the smile and excitement during the arrival. wives have no right to surrender to whatever comes during the absence of their husbands .we have to be strong or stronger or the strongest person for the sake of our children and for our husbands as is just doing our individual parts and responsibilities as couples

  11. Hellos and Goodbyes make the cycle of our lives…definitely making us tougher than anyone else..i really feel every word in this article. Thanks a lot for putting our feelings here..:)

  12. Hey , very well written. Really touched my heart being a marine engg wife. Can anyone pls help me with any group or association of mariners wife, that I can join. Would be of great help to me. Deepshikha

  13. My seafarer husband posted this and I read it. I never thought my life was any different than that of any other married women, it is our chosen lifestyle and my husband loves the sea. As long as he is happy with what he does, I will be there waiting on the pier. Fair winds and following seas to my favorite Bosun…

  14. I really enjoyed the premise of this article, because the spouses of sailors are incredible and do have to put up with a lot!!!

    That being said, I’m pretty offended by the blatant disregard this article shows for the presence of women in the merchant marine (or Navy)… In case you haven’t caught on, women are also leaving their homes and families and going to sea. Their spouses may be male or female… and they too endure the same hardships this article delves into. Women will continue to fight for equality in our society and hopefully other readers will support me in support all men AND women who sail and those left behind who support them! Thanks!

  15. This is a beautiful piece and I have read it many times. I don’t think that people that don’t live this life quiet understand just how hard it can be and all the quirks it has. One minute your a couple with each other to rely on and the next you are a single parent with all the responsibilities falling on your shoulders. If you don’t have a strong bond before entering this life it will break you.
    Deepshikha there is a group on facebook that has been started only in these past few months that is for seafarers, their partners and family. It is called An Anchor In Port and the whole idea is to create a place where we can just all come together for support and friendship. It is run by myself and I am the wife of an IR who’s been at sea for over 12 years now.

  16. Before I retired, I went to sea over a 40 year period. My wife of 37 years was part of it from the very beginning to last sign off. I can truthfully say, I could not have done it without her.

  17. wow very nicely written, i can truly relate, that’s how i feel , thank you for putting them into words. i just posted & shared (excerpt only) your article. Thank you.

  18. This piece of writing is so great!,
    I am also a wife of a mariner. We are newly wed last september 2014 and now we have a baby. At first when my husband left home last november i really felt sad coz he will be far away from us coz of his work. I dont know what to do as her behalf, two months past from his departure i really devoted my time in school coz i am a teacher and also i give time to my baby after work. Sometimes i cried if things went wrong , i want to talk to him every minute , i want to hug and kiss him but i couldnt do it.

    It is so difficult to be a wife of a mariner,. Most of the time we experienced emotional stress..
    But if we really understood the purpose why we have this kind of life,, perhaps it would be easy for s to survive. If we bring God into our marriage then everything goes easier, even rough seas cannot distroy.
    To all the wives of a mariner ,dont forget that we are also a Hero.

  19. Thank you for this wonderful article about us…mariner’s wife! Emotional stress is the hardest thing to handle being away from our husband. It takes much courage, fidelity, patience, trust and love to keep the relationship grow.

  20. Relate much! Good for those family who had children, at least they had their children to suffice their loneliness.
    Im a wife also of a seaman but we are childless. Good that i am a teacher at least my works keeps me busy and helps me ease the quite night when im alone. My mobile is my treasured company waiting for his call, got the maximum volume (even my neighbors can hear it)during night time so i can wake up if he calls. A few minutes of call is very much treasured knowing that he is ok in that far away places in the middle of the sea or ocean. Counting the months for his contract to end is not that easy and so long . But waiting at the airport for his arrival is much longer. Than counting the months since u know he is already their. The airport is the witness of our sadness and excitement. Knowing that he will be out again for a living and that he is well and be with you again.

  21. i enjoyed reading this wonderful article and still have the desire to read over and again. I am extremely happy that you acknowledge the hardships a seafarer’ s wife goes through and still she manages the show with a smile. Every women should read this article irrespective of being a seafarer’s wife.There is a saying ‘STRENGTH IS LIFE,WEAKNESS IS DEATH’.even the rough sea cannot destroy us!!!!!

  22. I feel like king of oceans when I m at sea. And the reason need not to be told… you can’t be a king without a queen.. my wife is my queen.. even her thougt make me feel like king .. just imagine how I feel when she is in my arms…. people say life at sea is nothing but lonliness. ..but wives like mine feel those lonely moments with soooo much of sweet memories of time we spent together and words we spoke…. salute to all those wives of sea going people…. i love you bachi…

  23. Awesome article for all the Seafarer’s wife and getting motivation from this article…

  24. Bravo to all seafarers wives! This piece is the first i’ve seen where credit is given to the the wives of seafares, and its so real cos we go through a lot that the normal everyday couples can’t imagine.

    Some terrible days after dealing with challenges that normally should be your husband’s routine, thereby acting the male roles as well as the female roles, you just feel so exhausted n drained physically; your are left with your emotions n craving for the warmth of your husband and he’s busy working @ sea, then all you do is recall all the beauttiful moments you shared when he was around and imagine it was real, then you sleep with all the love you have and feel for your husband. Then comes the countdaown days when you can barely sleep at all cos of a build-up of emotional needs leading to emotional stress. There are also days when the kids miss daddy so much that they sing, ‘i want daddy’ to your ears…and so on and sso forth… Thank God for the grace.

  25. why nobody writes about ex-wives of seafarers and what they have to go through when their husbands fell in to arms of double younger ships prostitutes and divorce leaving family in completely horrible condition?

  26. A good read. I am a newly wed wife of a Seafarer and this article helped me to prepare myself for the coming days. God bless all seafarers and their families!

  27. I say,
    “Behind every successful mariner is a wife. And behind every
    Mariner’s fall is ANOTHER WOMAN.”
    Doomsday to thee who chooses the latter than the former.
    Money gone… Family devastated…
    Life will never be smooth sailing ever again.

  28. Helio….i m studying in BE MECGHANICAL ENGG, pls tell me approximate fees for GME….I M WAITINGGGGG…….

  29. Much appreciated article for all involved in the mariners world. It is often spoken about in the military circle but not heard for the civilian field. (where a soldier or an airman’s wife gets credit)
    I do have some discontent … I the wife, work as a military contractor leaving 3-4 months at a time. My better half handles it terribly. Granted I am woman in a field of men. But he is now taking a tankerman positron and I will be at home waiting. The tables have turned. He leaves tomorrow. I am interested to see how I fair. Not quite an even playing I know. I only have to wait for him for 4 weeks. And I will have less worry, sexistly I know, since I assume the crew is all men. But I will go out on a limb…I believe women are tougher than men in this situation. One more issue I took, the most offensive of all, you make it out to sound like women only become self reliant, tough, solely dependable because they are put in that situation and have no choice. Ughhh. How about women like myself and countless others out there who were independent and self reliant and supporting before they took on a massive as a partner. Us women are smart enough to recognize the strength, courage, and fortitude of these mariners we welcome into our lives.

  30. Thanks to the writer Abhishek, you have beautifully explained how it is not an ordinary life of a Sailor’s wife. Under stress and confusion I was browsing to know more about “Advantages of marrying a Merchant Navy Guy”, however here I got to read what exactly my mind was searching for!
    and the comments section aswell.. couldn’t skip on any review.
    Cheers to this Beautiful Life 🙂

  31. I want to leave a prayer for my loving sailor husband 🙂

    Father, I pray for my husband as he goes to work in the world each day. Thank you for the work you give him to do which provides for our family. Thank you for using his skills and abilities for this vocation, this calling from you. As you have placed him specifically in his place of work, strengthen him each day as he lives as a light for you. Give him utterance to speak the words you would have him say, and protect him as he strives to work with integrity. Keep him respectful and gracious not only to his superiors, but also toward those he works with and those who work for him. Help him to be kind, fair, and gentle with others, so that others will see Christ reflected in his conduct. Enable him to work alongside those who may be hostile to his witness. Help him to be longsuffering and patient in hard circumstances. Father, it can be hard to work day in and day out where we feel hostility surround us. Remind my husband each day the value of his work and the importance of his witness. Amen.

  32. I have been married for 27 years , my husband and I have gone together through all ladders of his carrier.He is a Captain Mariner now and I am extremely proud of his professional growth !!! I am a physician but can not practice medicine the way I would love to( even though I work in medical field ) due to restrictions the Government of Canada puts on our lisensuring process. Therefore, I devote my life to my husband’s carrier development and our son in order to keep our family strong and united. It’is hard mentally, especially if you have strong academical and professional background.However , the way I see it – It is my responsability and input into my husband ‘s professional success, thus it is OUR success!
    I don’t want to discuss the difficulties I am going through when he is away , lonelless and tears in my throat….But I have chosen this life and I have no regrets! My husband is my best friend and soul-mate and it says everything…

  33. wow just what i wanted to hear!thanks all for your comments they are really going to help me am soon going to be seafarer wife.and i thank God for giving me such a man.and i really do LOVE HIM SO MUCH .

  34. Wow a wonderful article. I was just having a conversation with my boyfriend today about the difficulties we wud have to face after marriage specially d loneliness and not having him by my side wen I need him and he not having me by his side.. I have asked him many tyms why he had to pick this of Everything and his answer was simple and innocent ” I love the Sea and Ships and so I decided am picking a career on the same “. It’s just pure love n passion he has towards being a Mariner!! I’m so proud of him and would definitely be supportive for him to do what he really loves!!! It is not gonna be easy for me & him as well to just stay apart for months.. we were discussing on what should be done about that.. At this point I would also like to say “Behind every successful woman is a Man, who trusts her, loves her and protects her and treats her like a Queen!!! He’s on the ship right now and am missing him like crazy.. Waiting to be in his hands soon ?? A million Thanks to the Technology if not for it it wud have been a nightmare.. Atleast now we get to talk almost every day.. Half Of My Heart Is Out at The Sea!!! ?? Even In a Sea Of People, his eyes will Always Search For Me ❣️
    Ladies ” Home is Where the Anchor Drops!!! So If a Sailor Loves You, Raise your head and Walk like a QUEEN ”

    Love U loads n loads Nithin baby, Donno Wat Destiny has in store for Us but D place U hold in my heart is very spl and it can never be replaced.. My Love for u will only keep growing over the years.. Proud of U my sweetheart ?

    Yours’ only Pumpku

  35. A conversation with relative:
    Concerned relative: so, your dad told me you are in relationship with a sailor and he is the only one from his family who is talking to you??
    Don’t you think it’s little risky as u don’t know anything about his family, his relatives his work group??
    And also he don’t even have any house ????.
    How could you be so easy with such an important decision of your life???
    Me: I would like to give you point to point answer along with some good to know information.
    1. Well yes, I am in relationship with a guy who is a sailor ⛵. And I am proud of it as he sail the world with such strong will and determined mind. He is the only one I ever met who has such an stable mind set and strong craving for family.
    He is the one I deserve and I crave for.
    He is the one who made me feel like a princess because I know he is the real prince god have sent for me.
    2. Yes he is the only one I met, I talk and I spend time with. Yes I know no one from his family. Yes, I don’t even wanted to know who is there in his relatives. Yes, I give damn to those people (so called relatives) who never turned on to ask or enquired of my guy if hr is fine or not, where he lives, what he eats what life he is having during so many years… And the most importantly: I AM MARRYING HIM, NOY HIS RELATIVES”. So I don’t find a point of meeting, greeting or talking to anyone among them.
    3. No it’s not at all scary that he has a blank past and he came out of nowhere in my life and yes all he has is his bag and his Job (now he has me too).
    I don’t even wanted to give a second thought of being in relationship with him because he have satisfied all my questions and concerns even before I asked him. He reads my mind and lives in my ????.
    4. Work group: they are sailors they don’t have work group, they have mates. They live peacefully, they help eachother they risk everything for eachother and one don’t need to know everyone they are working with just for the simple fact they are the best people on the earth.
    5. Who said it’s important that a guy must own a house before he gets married!!!
    Marriage is a50-50% partnership, couple must complement eachother and not create any burden. So he fulfills everything which I lack and I fulfill the rest which is miss.
    We are having a perfectly balanced ride.
    6. “How could you take such an important decision so easily” is a confusing question, rather not even clear??
    What could be the difficulty we can to have before selecting our partner???
    Now some good to know information:
    He is brave, he don’t sagrigate work according to gender for him both of us are equal. He is daring to go to the sea and face all those rough and calm sea….
    He works hard and fir that they get rewarded in terms of salary.
    Sailors are the best in management, they are good architect, awesome hair dresser, have great fashion sense and above all THEY ARE IN LOVE WITH THEIR FAMILY BECAUSE THEY OFTEN MISS THEM.

  36. There is something to be said about signing-on only the single and much, if not all, of that something has been said above.

    What of the leave. Perhaps not as generous once weekends are considered for the shoreside worker but in a stretch they can never enjoy. What of the pay. Even in the West is was ‘good’ when gauged against those with equivalent responsibilities and qualification ashore. In the East considerably more so – Money and leave may not compensate the obstinate for their determination to be wimps but it will certainly allow them to enjoy their depressions in more comfort.

    There are bigger foe to be fought. The employer who is unfit through lack of morals or lack of capital leading to bankrupt ships in ports where the writ of the admiralty courts run only slowly and not particularly fine. His crew merely an unfortunate and unthought about adjunct to his self inflicted woe. We do not need to invent feelings based burdens there was always lakanooky and always will be.

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